Ireland: Maintaining Employee Rest Breaks

Last Updated: 14 March 2019
Article by Ciara Ní Longaigh

Ensuring that employees get suitable rest breaks is vitally important in maintaining a happy and healthy workforce. However, the reality for employers is that it can be difficult to provide employees with designated breaks in a bustling environment and many employers are unaware of whether employees are taking proper and sufficient breaks. Having proper procedures and time recording systems in place not only ensures that an organisation meets their statutory obligations but can also be beneficial in identifying the reasons why employees are not getting an opportunity to take their rest breaks, such as understaffing during busy periods or a lack of awareness around entitlements.

Statutory Entitlements

Under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (“the 1997 Act”), employers are under an obligation to ensure that their employees receive their statutory entitlement to breaks. Section 12 of the 1997 Act provides that that an employee will be entitled to 11 hours consecutive rest per 24-hour period. The consecutive rest periods are required from a health and safety point of view to ensure that employees have a minimum period of sleep. Where an employee works over four and half hours, they will be entitled to 15 minute break and where an employee works more than six hours will be entitled to 30 minute break which can include the first break.

The 1997 Act also provides specific protections for employees who work during the night. “Night Time” is defined as the period between midnight and 7.00 a.m. the next morning and “night worker” as an employee –

a) who normally works at least 3 hours of his or her daily working time during night time, and

b) the number of hours worked by whom during night time, in each year, equals or exceeds 50 per cent, of the total number of hours worked by him or her during that year.

Any night workers who are involved in employment where there are special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain are subject to a limit of 8 hours of night work in a 24 hour period.

Of note, certain categories of workers are exempted from the above entitlements. The Organisation of Working Time (General Exemptions) Regulations, 1998 (S.I. No. 21 of 1998) set out the various categories of activities undertaken by employees which will be exempt from the applications of sections 11, 12 and 13 of the 1997 Act. The categories include an activity in which the employee is regularly required by the employer to travel distances of significant length, an activity of a security or surveillance nature which requires the continuous presence of the employee at a particular place, production in the press, provision of ambulance, fire and civil protection services, industrial activity in which work cannot be interrupted, as well as agriculture and tourism.

The Labour Relations Commission previously developed a Code of Practice on Compensatory Rest Periods which gives guidance on arrangements which may be utilised in circumstances where because of exemptions or collective agreements, emergencies or unforeseeable circumstances, employees cannot avail of their rest breaks. The Code provides that exempted employees who have missed their rest breaks should receive equivalent compensatory rest as soon as possible after the statutory rest break has been missed. While the Code recognises that neither the 1997 Act nor the EU Directive on Working Time specify any timeframes within which compensatory rest must be available, it is highlighted that the employer should have regard to the particular place of employment and the relevant health and safety concerns in terms of adequate rest. The Workplace Relations Commission have noted that the principal purpose of the legislation is to ensure that breaks are actually taken and employees should not be paid to forego rest breaks as it is a measure to protect their health. Section 5 (2) of the Organisation of Working Time (Records) (Prescribed Form and Exemptions) Regulations 2001 (“the 2001 Regulations”) provides a defence for an employer where they have informed employees of their rest break entitlements and have provided employees with the procedures to be followed should an employee not be able to avail of a particular rest break.

Maintaining Working Time Records

Section 25 of the 1997 Act provides that an employer is obliged to keep certain records in relation to working time of employees for at least 3 years. The 2001 Regulations provide that where there is no clocking in facilities, a form to record the days and hours worked each week by each employee must be kept by the employer in the format that is set out in the regulation, Form OWT 1.

If an employer has failed to comply with the requirements of section 25 of the 1997 Act, the burden of proof is on the employer to demonstrate that the statutory obligations were complied with and employees did receive their rest breaks.

Recent Case Law

In July 2018, 14 employees were awarded between €750 and €1000 each by the Workplace Relations Commission for the denial of their rest breaks by their employer, Paddy Power. The employer in these cases had failed to show satisfactory evidence that its employees had been able to take the uninterrupted breaks which they were entitled to. The employer made no reference to rest breaks in the staff handbooks nor was there any information concerning same on display in their stores. The employer did not have a clocking in facility and had failed to comply with the 2001 Regulations.

The Adjudicating Officer was of the view that the employees in this case had to be at the disposal of their employer for the entirety of their rest breaks and therefore, that these were not sufficient rest breaks for the purposes of the 1997 Act. He was also of the view that the electronic point of sale system which the employer contended measured employees’ breaks was not a sufficient method of measuring same.

On the 10th January 2019, the Labour Court issued a recommendation that a payment of €500 in the form of tax-efficient vouchers be made by Tesco to 10 employees over their alleged failure to receive paid breaks between 2008 and 2013. While the staff handbook and the employment contracts of the employees concerned provided for 15 minutes’ paid breaks if employees were rostered for 4.5 hours or more, the store did not apply any proper clocking arrangement. It was noted that the lack of definite records, as well as the lapse of time since the issue complained of first arose, meant the Court did not believe it was reasonable to consider applying full retrospective payment as claimed in all the circumstances.

How to be Compliant

Even in a busy work environment, employers must be cognisant of their employees’ rights and entitlements in relation to statutory rest breaks. Maintaining an efficient time recording system will ensure that employees are getting proper breaks and will provide the employer with a clear record of same. Such records have to be maintained for at least three years and recent case law indicates that employers should actively monitor such time recording systems in order to identify and rectify issues and of course any such monitoring system must be in compliance with your data protection obligations.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions